An F-35 aircraft mechanic with Marine Fighter Attack Squadron (VMFA) 542 and an F-35B instructor pilot with Marine Fighter Attack Training Squadron (VMFAT) 501 perform preflight checks on an F-35B Lightning II jet at Marine Corps Air Station Cherry Point, North Carolina.
US Marine Corps/Staff Sgt. Theodore Bergan
A US Marine Corps F-35B Lightning II jet was lost yesterday after a training mishap.
The pilot, who landed safely, ejected from the jet and was found Sunday in North Charleston.
A debris field from the jet’s crash landing was located Monday 80 miles away from the base.
The debris field from the missing F-35B Lightning II jet was located this afternoon about 80 miles away from where its pilot was found after ejecting during a training mishap yesterday.
“The debris was discovered two hours northeast of Joint Base Charleston,” officials from the base said in a statement emailed to Insider. “Members of the community should avoid the area as the recovery team secures the debris field.”
Local news outlet WMBF reported parts of the aircraft were found near Bartells Road in Indiantown, South Carolina. Though US Marine Corps officials initially requested the public’s help locating the missing jet, it remains unclear whether civilians guided the USMC search-and-rescue team to the debris field. Officials have not released any additional information about the condition of the jet or whether any injuries were reported as a result of the crash.
A single F-35B jet costs about $80 million, depending on its weapons configuration, The Washington Post reported. The US Government Accountability Office estimates it will cost American taxpayers about $1.7 trillion to “buy, operate, and sustain the aircraft and systems” over the 60-year program lifetime, making the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter program the most expensive weapons program in US history.
While the incident that prompted the costly F-35 mishap remains under investigation, the US Marine Corps has grounded all flights for two days to ensure its pilots are briefed on “the fundamentals of safe flight operations, ground safety, maintenance, and flight procedures, and maintaining combat readiness,” the Marine Corps said in the Monday statement.
The decision to ground all flights comes after three mishaps over the last six weeks, including the F-35B that was found crashed on Monday. On August 24, an F/A-18 fighter jet crashed in San Diego, California, killing its pilot. Three more Marines were killed and 20 injured three days later when a MV-22B Osprey crashed during a training exercise in Australia.
The F-35B is not the first fighter jet to fly pilotless after its crew ejected, Insider previously reported. In July 1989, a Soviet MiG-23 fighter jet flew 500 miles into NATO territory without a pilot before it crashed into a Belgian man’s home, killing him.